Feb 272011

Before I get into the main subject of this post let me offer an experiment you can do as you are deciding how and what to get rid of in terms of all your stuff.  It’s pretty easy.  Grab a box of some sort and put in all those things that you can’t just throw away because you think you may need them someday.  Remember I said you either do or don’t but most people will find some excuse to hold onto something on the gamble that it will perform some function in the future and they will be stuck if it is gone.  So put these things in a box.  When it is full, seal the box up with tape and label it with all the stuff that is in it.  Date it and put it away in a closet or someplace out of the way.  Make a note on your minimalist calendar to come back and check on the box within a certain time frame, say for example one year from the date you sealed the box.  A year later when you come back, the box has not been opened and the tape is sealed tight, guess what?  You don’t need it.  Get rid of it.  It’s clutter, junk, in the way, and has no use.  Sell it, give it away and move on.

So, moving on, this post concerns stuff that has sentimental value.  It could be anything, gifts from friends or relatives, family heirlooms handed down over generations, or just something that recalls a fond memory of a life event or person.  There is nothing wrong with holding onto such keepsakes.  While they may not have any real monetary value or use they do have personal value.  That is all fine and dandy if you are willing to put up with keeping, storing, maintaining, or protecting such an item.  But if you are trying to achieve a true minimalist lifestyle, there is not a lot of room for sentimentality and that can present some issues on what to do with this stuff.  Some things such as photos are fairly easy.  Scan and save on the computer.  They will probably last a lot longer in electronic form than photo paper that degrades with time.  Other more solid objects are a bit more difficult.

It may seem that it takes a hard heart to give up an old family heirloom that has been thru a few dozen decades of use and changing hands but if you are serious about minimizing you need to take an objective and serious look at each item.  For example:  I still have an old paring knife my grandmother used to use.  She probably peeled a few hundred potatoes and onions with it for a family of 10 during 2 world wars and a depression.  The blade has been sharpened so many times it is barely long enough to peel anything anymore.  The knife was most likely bought at a five and dime for less than a quarter and had no special significance.  But because my grandmother used it, it has some fond memories for me.  I never use it so what to do with it?  Tossing it in the garbage sounds a bit cold but I suspect if Grandma was still around she would have tossed it a long time ago in favor of a new one.  This is a very minor example of something that has sentimental value but no real use to a minimalist.  Some solutions?  Keep it as it isn’t in the way.  Or give it to a relative who isn’t into minimalism.  Which is probably the best solution.  It stays in the family, you know where to find it.  No big deal.

In my personal goal towards minimalism I have what I consider to be a bit of an advantage.  I have no wife (big surprise there I know), no kids, no brothers or sisters.  When I am gone whatever I have will most likely go to no one.  It may sound a bit sad and lonely but not really.  But as I was going thru family heirlooms and personal photos and keepsakes of my own life I realized that for the most part, this stuff will have absolutely no value to anyone else.  No one but me knows or gives a crap that I took a motorcycle trip across the country one summer and here are the photos to prove it.  No one cares about the memory patches I acquired as friends were lost over the years.  Their names would be meaningless to anyone else.  The family stuff went to a few close cousins who have kids and grandkids.  They can hand them down to future generations.  The rest, gone, sold, scanned, whatever.  It sounds a bit heartless and cold but I just don’t see myself sitting around some retirement home looking at old photos of stuff I did and people I knew with other old folks who could care less.  I know what I did with my life and who I met.  And that is all that is important to me.  A bit selfish perhaps, but I’ve moved too many times toting boxes of that old crap around and never doing anything with it.  And now that I live in the Florida Keys, the added problems of maintaining all that stuff in a humid, moldy, salty environment just doesn’t make any sense.  So, I’m rid of it.  And I don’t miss it.

Remember that just about everything thing you own can be replaced.  Except when it comes to items of sentimental value.  It all depends on how much value you put on sentiment.   That coin collection from your great grandfather may be worth some real money.  Obviously you don’t want to get rid of it but if you don’t want to be hauling stuff like that around find a safe place to keep it.  A relative you can trust, safe deposit box, whatever.  If it is something of genuine historic value find a museum where you could loan it out for display and safe keeping.  Just remember, if you are trying to achieve a minimalist lifestyle, the more you have, the more it will hold you back.

That’s all from the Fritter this week.  See you next time.

And I sent Grandma’s knife to a cousin so quit worrying about it.